Peanut allergy is a type of food allergy distinct from nut allergies. It is a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction to dietary substances from peanuts causing an overreaction of the immune system which in a small percentage of people may lead to severe physical symptoms. It is due to IgE allergy antibodies against peanut proteins.
A food allergy is caused when a person’s immune system mistakenly believes that a harmless substance, in this case a food, is harmful. In its attempt to protect the body, it creates specific IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies to that food. The next time the individual eats that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals and histamines. These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system.
It is estimated to affect 0.4-0.6% of the population. In England, an estimated 4,000 people are newly diagnosed with peanut allergy per year (11 per day); 25,700 having been diagnosed with peanut allergy by a clinician at some point in their lives.
The most severe peanut allergies can result in anaphylaxis, an emergency situation requiring immediate attention and treatment with epinephrine.
It is usually treated with an exclusion diet and vigilant avoidance of foods that may contain whole peanuts or peanut particles and/or oils.
Exclude from the diet:
- Artificial nuts
- Beer nuts
- Cold, pressed, expelled, or extruded peanut oil
- Goober nuts
- Goober peas
- Ground nuts
- Mandalona nuts
- Monkey nuts
- Mixed nuts
- Nut pieces
- Peanut butter
- Peanut flour
Foods that may contain peanut protein:
- African, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes
- Baked goods (pastries, cookies, etc)
- Chocolate (candies, candy bars)
- Egg rolls
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Ice cream
- Natural flavorings
- Sunflower seeds
Commonly asked questions
Q: Can a peanut allergy be outgrown?
A: Recent studies indicate up to 20 percent of children diagnosed with a peanut allergy outgrow it.
Note: Peanuts can be found in many foods – check all labels carefully as they can cause severe allergic reactions. If your doctor has prescribed epinephrine, be sure to carry it with you at all times. Individuals allergic to peanuts are often told to avoid tree nuts as well.
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